There are few guitarists as expressive and unorthodox working today as New York's own Kevin Hufnagel.
Familiar to fans through his laundry list of projects (Gorguts, Dysrhythmia, Byla, Vaura, Sabbath Assembly), Hufnagel's latest solo outing Messages to the Past tips the hat to classic metal of a dark and melodic persuasion. Mercyful Fate, Fates Warning and Randy Rhoads era Ozzy Osbourne were the roots that made Hufnagel the prolific guitar player he is today.
"I never stopped loving that music that I grew up with, those early riffy heavy metal records and I never stopped listening to it either," he tells Metal Injection. "But you go through phases. I went off to school for jazz guitar and at that time it was like ok, I want music that is way more experimental than this now, some weird stuff and more extreme. I went on that path for awhile and I’m still kind of on that path. But at the same time I’ve taken a step back in recent years and just jam some of these old tracks. I never stopped listening to stuff like King Diamond. Stuff like Marty Friedman’s first solo album, I hadn’t heard that in awhile and I went back to it and was like man this rules. All these songs have such great melodies, and it got me kinda thinking.
Over 20 years removed from his debut solo album While I Wait, and Hufnagel is still reinventing the wheel when it comes to tone, texture and ambiance (see his insanely cool arrangement of the Phantasm theme for example). Messages to the Past combines his aura for emotive grooves and eerie atmosphere with nods to heroes from his youth.
"I think of it as being very thematic," he says. "There’s always kind of a visual running through my head when I’m working on my music. I’m always seeing a picture and trying to go somewhere, and in kind of a short amount of time. All the songs are three to five minutes. I like to take people places in a short amount of time.
"A lot of positive things in my life inspired this record, even though it sounds dark and melancholy a lot of times. It was really fun to make this record and I feel I could easily make a part two tomorrow. I don’t want to take away the uniqueness of this one, and that’s why I’m working on something that is totally different. I think there is a consistency throughout my solo material, atmosphere or mood-wise, experimental or ambient or whatever I’m getting with this stuff. I like to think it’s not all over the place."
A tireless artist in every sense, Hufnagel has already begun work on a new batch of tunes that completely differ from Messages to the Past. He's the consummate metaller, driven by creativity and forever thinking outside of the box.
"It never seems to leave most people that get into this music," Hufnagel says of metal. "There’s something, when you play in a band and tour all the time, you realize how small the world of metal is. You see the same people over and over again and it becomes like a family. I feel very fortunate that it has allowed me to travel a lot of the world now. It has only been a positive thing to see how unique every country is and every culture, but also how the same we are. Why that is? I don’t know. Passion."
For more on Messages to the Past, and to request lessons from the master himself, check out his official website here.